Unplanned admissions of patients to intensive care units from medical-surgical units often result from failure to recognize clinical deterioration. The early warning score is a clinical decision support tool for nurse surveillance but must be communicated to nurses and implemented appropriately. A communication process including collaboration with experienced intensive care unit nurses may reduce unplanned transfers.
To determine the impact of an early warning score communication bundle on medical-surgical transfers to the intensive care unit, rapid response team calls, and morbidity of patients upon intensive care unit transfer.
After an early warning score was electronically embedded into medical records, a communication bundle including notification of and telephone collaboration between medical-surgical and intensive care unit nurses was implemented. Data were collected 3 months before and 21 months after implementation.
Rapid response team calls increased nonsignificantly during the study period (from 6.47 to 8.29 per 1000 patient-days). Rapid response team calls for patients with early warning scores greater than 4 declined (from 2.04 to 1.77 per 1000 patient-days). Intensive care unit admissions of patients after rapid response team calls significantly declined (P = .03), as did admissions of patients with early warning scores greater than 4 (P = .01), suggesting that earlier intervention for patient deterioration occurred. Documented reassessment response time declined significantly to 28 minutes (P = .002).
Electronic surveillance and collaboration with experienced intensive care unit nurses may improve care, control costs, and save lives. Critical care nurses have a role in coaching and guiding less experienced nurses.